Mission Pie had its 8th annual baking contest on Saturday afternoon, with 16 homemade pies (made by amateurs, no former or current professionals) entered to be judged by a panel of five: Lisa Ziebel, a Mission Pie baker; Josey Baker, of Josey Baker Bread at 736 Divisadero; Bill Niman, founder of the well-known Bay Area establishment Niman Ranch; and Christopher Hall and Bruce “Mac” McKenzie, last year’s contest winners.
The contest began back in 2007 as a collaboration between Mission Pie’s founders, Krystin Rubin and Karen Heisler, and artist Nathan Lynch. Back then, the front of Mission Pie was leased to Southern Exposure, and Lynch was an artist-in-residence who “wanted to do something pie-related,” said Heisler. Together, they started the pie baking contest, and ever since it’s become an event that Rubin and Heisler look forward to all year.
Contestants are asked to contact Mission Pie by August 29 (the day before the contest) with information about the pie they will be baking. They then show up at 1:30 p.m., submit their pie and list of ingredients, and wait around (or stroll through the neighborhood, or go to Dolores Park, or what have you) for an hour while the panel of judges taste tests each entry.
At 2:30 p.m., all of the pies are brought out to the front of the shop, where customers can taste each creation (gratis) and submit a ballot for the People’s Choice Pie. Besides People’s Choice and the coveted Best in Show, the judges are asked to think of three other categories for which there will be winners. At 3 p.m., winners are announced, goodie-bags awarded, and the crown passed to the next pie champion.
This year, the crown went to Olivia Thomas, who won with her peach blueberry crunch pie. The People’s Choice award went to Long Le with his pear pistachio frangipane creation. The three categories invented by the judges were Makin’ Yo Mamma Blush (awarded to a peanut butter cream pie by Jane Thomas), Baker’s Choice (for Deborah Carlswift’s apple blackberry sage pie), and Best Classic (given to the key lime pie by Chiara Madodowi).
All were given goodie-bags, but only Thomas was crowned by last year’s winners, a ceremony she’ll have to perform in turn when the tradition continues next year.